I can’t remember the article that recently set off the lightbulb in my head, but it had something to do with a parent working on executive functioning skills with their child. The article I read talked about the ability to start tasks, but not always follow them through to completion. Sound familiar?
I know that I’m constantly distracted in the middle of a task. Part of it is the interruptions from the kids, but it’s really more than that. Sometimes, I was just not following through on a task because I didn’t fully connect each step of the task. There were two major problems I was having in my life.
The first is the kitchen. I generally tried to make sure that dishes were done every day, but it was still a bit of a disaster zone. I’m a little embarrassed to admit this. I wouldn’t always put things away. The stove top was caked with layers of grease and burnt-on food. I rarely wiped down the table until we were about to sit down to eat – and then only if it was really bad. The sink was always disgusting. Recycleables would be piled up by the side of the sink. The only time I really cleaned in there was when someone was coming over.
The other major problem was getting started in the morning. I’m a freelance writer and I know that it’s really helpful to get a bit of writing done in the morning. I’d wake up early – before the kids – with the best of attention. I’d stumble into the kitchen and sit down with my morning coffee and my laptop. Suddenly, it would be 10am and all I’d done was browse Facebook, check my email, read some news articles, and basically just f*** around. My kids would have been watching TV for far too long, there’d be dishes in the sink, I wouldn’t have done any work, and I’d be rushing around to clean up and get lunch ready.
Obviously, something was not working right here.
When I was diagnosed with ADD and started taking Ritalin, my life definitely improved. I was suddenly able to use my planner again, remembering all of the time management tips I had learned in the past. I was never perfectly able to start working toward reaching my goals, but at least I was getting somewhere. Those daily tasks, though, were slipping through my fingers.
Enter the Morning and Evening To-Do Lists
Things as mundane as wiping down the counters just never seemed important enough to make it into the planner, but they’re definitely essential for making life a lot easier. Going off of the ideas relating to dealing with executive function, I made my own to-do lists.
There’s a separate one for the morning and evening. The idea is that I have to complete everything on the list before I can sit down and relax. At most, the whole list usually takes less than 30 minutes (except for the writing part), but it’s made a big difference in my happiness. Here are my lists:
- Empty dishwasher
- Take care of stray dishes from the night before
- Take out garbage/recycling
- Do any breakfast/lunch prep that’s necessary
- Write 1,000 words
- Put food away
- Wipe counters/table/stove
- Fill up the water jug
In a perfect world, I wouldn’t have any dishes left to handle in the morning, but my husband tends to save about a third of his dinner for a late-night snack and I’m not about to put off finishing the dishes until he’s done. I’m also thinking about adding another writing requirement in the evening, which would probably be a good idea. I just don’t want to overwhelm myself.
This may seem like ADD 101 to anyone who’s known about their diagnosis for awhile, but it’s something that’s been very helpful for me.